English for Academic Research

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1 English for Academic Research More information about this series at

2 Adrian Wallwork English for Academic Research: Writing Exercises

3 Adrian Wallwork Via Carducci Pisa, Italy ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Springer New York Heidelberg Dordrecht London Library of Congress Control Number: Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013, Corrected at 2 nd printing 2016 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, speci fi cally the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on micro fi lms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. Exempted from this legal reservation are brief excerpts in connection with reviews or scholarly analysis or material supplied speci fi cally for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work. Duplication of this publication or parts thereof is permitted only under the provisions of the Copyright Law of the Publisher s location, in its current version, and permission for use must always be obtained from Springer. Permissions for use may be obtained through RightsLink at the Copyright Clearance Center. Violations are liable to prosecution under the respective Copyright Law. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a speci fi c statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. While the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication, neither the authors nor the editors nor the publisher can accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may be made. The publisher makes no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein. Printed on acid-free paper Springer is part of Springer Science+Business Media (

4 Preface Aim of the book and coverage The book is aimed at postgraduate students, PhD students and researchers whose fi rst language is not English. It is assumed that you have already reached a suf fi cient level of English to write a research paper, thesis or dissertation. The book covers all the writing skills that will help you to get a positive reaction from the reviewers of your manuscript, and thus improve your chances of publication. When reviewers say that the level of the English in a manuscript is poor, they are often referring not to grammar or vocabulary issues, but to readability problems (see the second section on page vii), such as poor structure, sentences being too long, redundancy, and ambiguity. All these problems, and many more, are dealt with in this book. Structure of the book, self study and classroom use Sections 1 9 of the book practice particular writing skills. Section 10 brings all these skills together in exercises on writing speci fi c sections of a manuscript from the Abstract to the Acknowledgements. Around half of the exercises in Sections 1 9 can be done rapidly, without the aid of a teacher. They are thus suitable for self study. Other exercises require you to write extended pieces of text, which you will need to have corrected by your teacher or a native speaker of English. Each part begins with cross references to other books in the series (see the first section on page vii). v

5 vi Preface Instructions and keys to the exercises Instructions to exercises are in italics. Examples of how to do the exercises are shaded in grey. If there is no example given and you are not sure how to do the exercise, look at the fi rst question in the exercise and then the answer to that question in the key. The keys (solutions) to the exercise appear immediately below the exercise, but in a smaller font. The idea is that you don t have to fl ip to the back of the book to fi nd the answers. This should speed up the process of doing the exercises. In a few cases, there is no key because there are unlimited ways of answering the exercise. In any case, you should consider the keys as being suggested answers. There may be several possible answers. If in doubt, consult with your English teacher. Word and phrases in [parentheses] indicate that these are alternative solutions to the ones outside parentheses, but they are probably less commonly used. Word and phrases separated by a slash (e.g. which/that ) indicate that both solutions are equally valid. Language and facts used in this book A few of the texts may contain technical language that you may not be familiar with. However, it is not necessary to understand every word in each sentence in order to be able to do the exercise. But if you fi nd that the technical language of one particular exercise is an obstacle to you being able to complete the exercise, then simply ignore that exercise and do the next. In fact, the book has been designed to give practice of the same writing skill in more than one exercise. Most of the facts, statistics and authors names contained in the exercises have been invented. Some are designed to be humorous. Academic writing can be quite heavy and you may fi nd you are more motivated to do some exercises if there is an element of fun involved. You are thus encouraged to invent data and information. All the exercises re fl ect the typical style of academic works and many are based on real texts. So whether you are using true facts or inventing your own, the kind of language and constructions you use will be in the same academic style.

6 Preface vii Cross referencing with other books in the series This book is divided into ten parts. At the beginning of each part is a list of the writing skills practiced in the exercises. These skills are cross referenced to two other books in the series: English for Research: Grammar, Usage and Style designed to resolve your doubts about the grammar, usage and style of academic English. English for Writing Research Papers everything you need to know about how to write a paper that referees will recommend for publication. This means that you can check how to use a particular writing skill before you start doing the related exercise. Grammar (e.g. the use of articles and tenses) and vocabulary are covered in: English for Academic Research: Grammar Exercises English for Academic Research: Vocabulary Exercises Other books in the series that you might fi nd useful are: English for Academic Correspondence tips for responding to editors and referees, networking at conferences, understanding fast-talking native English speakers, using Google Translate, and much more. No other book like this exists on the market. English for Presentations at International Conferences all the tricks for overcoming your fear of presenting in English at a conference. English for Interacting on Campus tips for: socializing with fellow students, addressing professors, participating in lectures, improving listening skills and pronunciation, surviving in a foreign country. To find out how the manuals are cross-referenced with the exercise books go to: Focus on readability Your main aim is to get your paper published. The people who determine whether your paper will be published are the editors of the journal and the referees who review your paper. Readability. This is the key concern of referees. If a paper is not readable it cannot be published. If a paper contains a limited number of grammatical and lexical errors, it can still be published, because such errors rarely prevent the reader from understanding the paper. Readability relates to the amount of effort the reader has to make in order to understand what you have written. Readability is affected by the following factors:

7 viii Preface sentence length (sentences longer than 30 words are generally hard to assimilate without having to be read twice) lack of structure (within a sentence, paragraph or section) redundancy (i.e. words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and sections that add no value for the reader) ambiguity and lack of clarity (i.e. the reader is not sure how to interpret a phrase) A low level of readability is associated with authors who are more interested in expressing themselves in an elegant or academic way, rather than on focusing on what the reader really wants/needs to read, and the best way to make this information immediately clear to the reader. English has increasingly become a reader-oriented language, in which authors feel a responsibility to help their readers, rather than impress them. This does not mean that English has become a simple language and that it has limited expressive power. It means that, when it is written well, it cuts out any unnecessary information, and presents all the useful information in a way that clearly shows the connections between ideas. Ideally, it does not leave gaps for the reader to fi ll in, nor does it adopt vague language and thus force the reader to make interpretations. Bear in mind, however, that there are still many native English writers whose aim seems to be to obscure rather than enlighten! Think about what you like reading on the web. You probably appreciate: ease in fi nding the information you want short sentences and paragraphs containing only relevant information white space, no dense blocks of text no distractors (e.g. pop ups, animations, links in every other sentence) When you write your paper, bear the above in mind. Think about what you like reading, then try to write in a style that will make reading your paper a pleasurable experience for your audience. Make it easy for readers to fi nd what they want and to absorb it. Don t create distractors: so no redundant words and phrases, misspellings, pointless or dif fi cult tables and fi gures. And don t make your readers wait for key information or force them to read something twice before they can understand it. A note for teachers This book of exercises is designed to be used in conjunction with English for Writing Research Papers, which is part of the same series of books. I have tried to cover what I consider to be the most important aspects of writing, particularly the ones that are likely to cause a paper to be rejected. Exercises on grammar and vocabulary can be found in the other volumes of this series.

8 Preface ix Many of the exercises, particularly those in Chapters 1-5, can be set as homework as they are quick to do and contain a key. The key is on the same page as the exercise. Simply tell the students to cover the key while they are doing the exercise. Also the extended exercises (e.g. those in Chapter 10 ) can be done at home. I suggest that you use classtime to: explain the theory (you can prepare by yourself using the relevant sections from English for Writing Research Papers ) go over the exercises For full details on how to exploit all the books in the English for Academic series, see: English for Academic Research: A Guide for Teachers

9 Contents 1 Punctuation and spelling commas: reducing number of commas: adding semicolons: replacing brackets: removing hyphens: adding hyphens: deciding where needed initial capitalization: in titles initial capitalization: in main text various punctuation issues: various punctuation issues: spelling Word order choosing the best subject to put at the beginning of the phrase putting the key words first avoiding beginning the sentence with it is: avoiding beginning the sentence with it is: choosing the best word order to help the reader: choosing the best word order to help the reader: choosing the best word order to help the reader: shifting the parts of the phrase to achieve optimal order: shifting the parts of the phrase to achieve optimal order: shifting the parts of the phrase to achieve optimal order: shifting the parts of the phrase to achieve optimal order: xi

10 xii Contents 2.12 reducing the number of commas and parts of the sentence putting sentences into the correct order typical mistakes Writing short sentences and paragraphs dividing up long sentences: dividing up long sentences: dividing up long paragraphs dividing up long paragraphs dividing up long paragraphs dividing up long paragraphs putting paragraphs into their most logical order writing short sentences: writing short sentences: writing short sentences: Link words: connecting phrases and sentences together linking sentences and paragraphs deleting unnecessary link words deciding when link words are necessary choosing best link word reducing the length of link words / phrases shifting the position of link words expressing consequences using link words to give additional neutral information using link words to give additional positive information using link words to give additional negative information making contrasts making evaluations connecting sentences by repetition of key word or a derivation of the key word describing processes describing causes describing effects and consequences making contrasts, concessions, qualifications, reservations, rejections outlining solutions to problems outlining a time sequence explaining figures and tables: making comparisons making evaluations and drawing conclusions: making evaluations and drawing conclusions: Being concise and removing redundancy removing individual redundant words removing several redundant words: removing several redundant words:

11 Contents xiii 5.4 reducing the word count: titles replacing several words with one preposition or adverb replacing several words with one adverb replacing several words with one word replacing a verb + noun construction with a single verb: identifying verb and noun clauses replacing a verb + noun construction with a single verb: replacing a noun phrase with a verb or can: replacing a noun phrase with a verb or can: replacing nouns with verbs in titles of papers identifying whether link words could be deleted deleting unnecessary link words: deleting unnecessary link words: deleting unnecessary link words: unnecessary use of we and one: unnecessary use of we and one: avoiding redundancy in introductory phrases avoiding redundancy in references to figures, tables etc rewriting unnecessarily long sentences: rewriting unnecessarily long sentences: rewriting unnecessarily long sentences: reducing length of an abstract reducing length of an introduction reducing the length of the outline of the structure reducing the length of the review of the literature: reducing the length of the review of the literature: reducing the length of the materials and methods reducing the length of the conclusions section reducing the length of the acknowledgements Ambiguity and political correctness repetition of words to aid reader s understanding: repetition of words to aid reader s understanding: avoiding ambiguity due to use of -ing form: avoiding ambiguity due to use of -ing form: disambiguating sentences: disambiguating sentences: pronouns and political correctness non-use of masculine terms for generic situations: non-use of masculine terms for generic situations: non-use of masculine terms for generic situations:

12 xiv Contents 7 Paraphrasing and avoiding plagiarism deciding what is acceptable to cut and paste quoting statistics paraphrasing by changing the parts of speech paraphrasing by changing nouns into verbs paraphrasing by changing the parts of speech and word order: paraphrasing by changing the parts of speech and word order: finding synonyms: verbs finding synonyms: verbs finding synonyms: verbs finding synonyms: nouns finding synonyms: nouns finding synonyms: adjectives finding synonyms: adverbs and prepositions finding synonyms: adverbs and prepositions paraphrasing by changing word order replacing we with the passive form making a summary: making a summary: making a summary: making a summary: De fi ning, comparing, evaluating and highlighting writing definitions writing definitions writing definitions making generalizations confirming other authors evidence stating how a finding is important highlighting why your method, findings, results etc. are important highlighting your findings comparing the literature comparing contrasting views comparing your methodology with other authors methodologies comparing data in a table questioning current thinking evaluating solutions

13 Contents xv 9 Anticipating possible objections, indicating level of certainty, discussing limitations, hedging, future work anticipating objections and alternative views indicating level of certainty indicating level of certainty reducing level of certainty discussing the limitations of the current state of the art qualifying what you say dealing with limitations in your own results: dealing with limitations in your own results: dealing with limitations in your own results: toning down the strength of an affirmation: toning down the strength of an affirmation: toning down the strength of an affirmation: toning down the strength of an affirmation: direct versus hedged statements direct versus hedged statements discussing possible applications and future work Writing each section of a paper abstracts introductions creating variety when outlining the structure of the paper outlining the structure of the paper survey of the literature methodology / experimental results discussion: discussion: differentiating between the abstract and the conclusions: differentiating between the abstract and the conclusions: conclusions: conclusions: acknowledgements: acknowledgements: Acknowledgements About the Author Editing Service for non-native researchers / Mentorship for EAP and EFL teachers Index

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